Britain has not proposed any workable alternatives to its Brexit withdrawal agreement, the EU said after talks with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson ended without a breakthrough. Johnson said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask his European counterparts to postpone Brexit for a third time.
It said the meeting between Johnson and EU Commission president Jean-Claude Juncker failed to yield any alternative to proposals on the Northern Ireland border that the British leader has rejected. [...]
But the commission gave a more sober assessment, saying that once again the UK had failed to come up with a viable alternative to the so-called Irish "backstop" border arrangement.
"President Juncker recalled that it is the UK's responsibility to come forward with legally operational solutions that are compatible with the Withdrawal Agreement," a statement from Juncker's office said.
"President Juncker underlined the Commission's continued willingness and openness to examine whether such proposals meet the objectives of the backstop. Such proposals have not yet been made."
'No reason for optimism'
Johnson says Britain will not agree to a divorce deal that includes the backstop, a provision that would temporarily keep the UK in the EU customs union to keep the Irish border open.
He says he will not delay Brexit beyond October 31 even if it means leaving with no deal. [...]
Finland's European affairs minister, Tytti Tuppurainen, who was chairing an EU ministerial meeting in Brussels, said London had not come up with detailed ideas for replacing the "backstop" section of the divorce deal.
"The European Union is always ready to negotiate when a proper proposal from the UK side is presented," Tuppurainen said.
"So far I haven't seen any proposal that would compensate the backstop."
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier, who joined the leaders for their talks in Juncker's native Grand Duchy, said last week he has "no reason to be optimistic".
The European Parliament will this week vote on a resolution rejecting Johnson's demand that the backstop clause be stripped from the deal.
Johnson insists this measure, which temporarily keeps the UK in the EU customs union, has to be removed if he is to bring the agreement back to the House of Commons.
But the accord will also have to win the support of the other 27 EU leaders and the European Parliament if Britain is not to crash out with no deal on October 31.
Johnson said he would rather be "dead in a ditch" than ask his European counterparts to postpone Brexit for a third time.
"Be in no doubt that if we cannot get a deal -- the right deal for both sides -- then the UK will come out anyway," Johnson said, writing in the Daily Telegraph on Monday. [...]
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Statement by the European Commission following the working lunch between President Jean-Claude Juncker and Prime Minister Boris Johnson
Related article on Financial Times: Juncker doubts chances of striking Brexit deal
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